No Hospitality Without Borders?

In a fascinating exploration of hospitality, philosopher Jacques Derrida, founder of “deconstruction”, noted that, paradoxically, hospitality requires clear boundaries between the private and the public. For me to be able to exercise hospitality towards a guest, I need to feel that the integrity of my private sphere, my “at home” where I choose to welcome the guest, is not violated. The paradox is that the law of hospitality can only ever be enforced when I, the host, have the possibility to deny hospitality. In other words, there is no such thing as forced love and kindness. So then, if the boundaries between the private and the public get blurred (think globalisation, for example), I can feel that my “home”, the very integrity of my “self” is being violated. Reactions are easy to see – ethnocentric, nationalist, and even xenophobic trends. In his lectures on the foreigner question, published in 1996, Derrida says:

“The perversion and pervertibility of this law (which is also a law of hospitality) is that one can become virtually xenophobic in order to protect or claim to protect one’s own hospitality, the own home that makes possible one’s own hospitality… Anyone who encroaches on my “at home”, on my power of hospitality, on my sovereignty as host, I start to regard as an undesirable foreigner, and virtually as an enemy. This other becomes a hostile subject, and I risk becoming their hostage.”

Derrida (1996)
welcome sign on a green background

keep exploring!

Image credit: Photo by Nico Smit on Unsplash

One thought on “No Hospitality Without Borders?

  1. Pingback: Knowing Yourself As The Colonised – humanfactor

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